Simple rewording exercises can help keep your songs off the “worst of” lists.
You could make a case for saying that good lyrics are more important than good melodies or chords. That’s because when someone hears a bad melody, they react by ignoring the song, while when they hear a bad lyric, they react by ridiculing it. Proof of this can be seen in “Worst Of” lists. For songs that become known as “bad”, it’s almost always the lyric coupled with a lousy song topic that sinks a song.
Song topics are a subject for another blog post. For now, what can you do to make sure that your lyrics are working as well as they can be? Most of the time, your song lyrics will benefit from trying one of the following simple rewording exercise.
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A rewording exercise is just as it sounds: take a line of your lyric, and look for as many different ways as you can to say the same (or almost the same) thing. These are the kinds of things I’ve put in my 9-Lesson course. Here are some activities to try:
1) Phrase Rewording
Take the following lines of sappy poetry, and see how many different ways you can rewrite them, conveying the same basic meaning, but making them sound a bit more sophisticated. Don’t concern yourself with matching beat or pulse at this point.
- I’m over-the-moon in love with you;
- You’re my one-and-only love;
- Don’t let go of what we have;
- I’m feeling down and don’t know what to do;
- Be my love, my lifelong friend.
2) Finishing the Thought
Take the following first lines, and see how many second lines you can create to finish the thought:
- If you were here with me tonight, __________
- The hardest part of being here, is ______________
- Over the hills of green and gold, ____________
- I need you, love, to promise me, ______________
- There are some times when I need to say, _____________
3) Start the Thought
Take the following second lines, and see how many first lines you can create before them:
- _____________, so hold me, touch me, love me.
- _____________, and that’s how our love began.
- _____________, I get excited when I see you smile.
- _____________, and peace, like a cloud, will see us through.
- _____________, you’re gonna get the best of me.
The purpose of these exercises is to help you see that the first thing you come up with isn’t always the best. In fact, it’s quite common that the best music you write comes from reworking what you’ve already written. We often hear the stories of great songs that just popped into the songwriter’s mind, but that’s not very commonplace.
So once you’ve tried these exercises, it’s time to transfer those methods to your own music. Take a song you’re currently working on and try some rewording. You may surprise yourself and find that you’ve accepted a mediocre way of saying something, when something better is lurking in the background.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter
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